Many soldiers’ spouses face mental health woes

By • Published: April 6th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s obvious that spouses of deployed soldiers suffer while their loved ones are away, but a study published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine helps shed more light on the subject. Researchers say women whose husbands were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan for one month or longer between 2003 and 2006 received significantly more mental health diagnoses than women whose husbands were not deployed. They also took more advantage of Army-provided mental health services.

The researchers examined military medical records of more than two-hundred-fifty-thousand Army wives. Thirty-seven percent of the women with deployed husbands had received mental health diagnosis during this time, compared with just thirty-one percent of women whose husbands were not deployed. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about twenty-six percent of all American adults have a mental health disorder.

Among all women in the study, depression, sleep disorders, anxiety, acute stress reaction and adjustment disorder were the most commonly diagnosed problems. But those with deployed spouses were more likely to have more than one condition.

The researchers suspect the numbers of Army wives suffering from mental health problems during the time studied actually was higher. Some women may have sought care in non-military facilities, or not at all.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recommends people affected by a family member’s deployment discuss their feelings with others and seek help from friends or support groups. Don’t watch too many news reports about war, which may increase anxiety. Instead, find fun ways to spend your time with people who will love and support you through the difficulties.